If you haven’t already read the other parts to this story, click HERE to get caught up.
I hear my necklace break, in the same way a vivid dream can startle you awake, I am suddenly wide-eyed.
I glance around but before I can register where exactly I am, I notice a small heaviness on my chest.
I blink, look down, and there she is, clutching the chain of my necklace in her impossibly small fist. Here in the quiet calm of the early morning, I finally meet my daughter for the first time. It takes a minute for me to determine I’m no longer deep in dreamland. This is in fact, real. SHE is real.
It’s not the story I wanted to write. In fact, I’ve basically avoided it for a full year.
On May 23, she turns one (!!!), and it’s finally time I share the story of how she got here. It’s a wild one, a total whirlwind, and unlike any of my other birth experiences.
First, some caveats:
I’m acutely aware that this is not a worse-case scenario. Things could have gone way better; things could have gone way worse.
The medical staff did their best work and honored my wishes every step of the way. In fact, they all went above and beyond and had they not been so attentive, the ending of this story could have been tragically different.
I have experienced two relatively straight-forward vaginal deliveries. That is what I know and that is my comfort zone. Having a c-section has always been the least desirable option for me personally.
Not all C-sections are urgent or emergent.
We are without-question BEYOND grateful everything turned out well. We are healthy, and we got to leave the hospital with our baby. All of that is a grace. I know not everyone has a happy ending.
Brushing past a mother’s hard birth story because “at least the baby is okay” might be well-meaning, but it does not honor the mother’s experience at all. It does not give her the space to wrap her head around what actually happened, or deal with the full spectrum of her feelings about her birth.
If this story mirrors your own in any way, please know that I am so sorry your experience was not ideal. I’m sorry that the memory of your baby’s birth – a beautiful moment regardless – may be tainted or difficult to face because of the circumstances surrounding it. I don’t think we are alone. I just think we’re scared to say it out loud.
Mamas, write your birth stories.
Write them. Even if you’re not a writer, even if you’re not the type to bother with writing down your grocery list. Record. That. Birth. Story.
I’ve preached this since I first became a mom in 2014.
Pen it on paper, list it in timeline form in the baby book, save a digital note in your phone, blog about it, create a voice memo….the method doesn’t matter, but the memory does.
Leading up to having my first daughter, I became easily wrapped up in birth stories. It didn’t matter if I knew the mom or not – it could be a woman in my real life sharing her story or a stranger on a podcast revealing the details of hers – hearing the first-person account of how any given birth went down was always intriguing to me. I hung on every word, amazed at how the details of each story were never repeated and were unique to each woman at that particular point in time. Tons (and tons) of stories later, I learned this truth: the only predictable element of birth is its unpredictability.
I think what fascinates me the most about birth is not only it’s unpredictability but also it’s sacredness. It’s set apart. Your entry or re-entry to motherhood is shaped by it, to some extent. Birth is a sacred space that mothers may initially enter with a whole team of supporters — her husband, a doula, a best friend, her mom, a top-notch nurse, a doctor or midwife — but ultimately, she endures the weight of it aided only by God. Her surrender is required. And through her surrender, the mother’s body is the chosen tool, the vessel, that God partners with to bring life forth. What an honor.
So you can imagine my shock when, after having baby #3, I couldn’t write our birth story.
I could start it, but I definitely couldn’t finish it. The memories of my daughter’s actual delivery (and much of my labor) simply do not exist for me.
That will always break my heart.
Do you remember those paper-mache crafts you proudly assembled in elementary school? You know the ones – first, you cut out various shapes, pictures, and letters from newspapers or magazines. Then you meticulously glue the pieces together to create something entirely new. All gluey gobs and messy paper clippings, piled on top of each other, covering some unrecognizable surface. At first it’s completely gooey and seemingly disastrous, but before long it dries and everything is cemented in place. That’s when the true art is revealed. Once it’s completely finished, you can appreciate the beauty of how it was built. Piece by piece. Scrap by scrap.
That’s what this birth story is – a decoupage creation, crafted by overlapping, stuck together scraps of memories. Some of mine, but also my husband, my family, the hospital records, and the hospital staff. In fact, the first thing my husband did after we were discharged from the hospital was pull out his tablet and set his fingers to the keys to document his account of this adventure. Bless him. All of the scraps and pieces come together on these pages to build something beautiful. (Because no matter how hard a birth is, I do believe it is always beautiful.)
Something you might remember about paper-mache in the early stages is it’s fragility. It can easily fall apart. Until everything dries and “sets,” it’s vulnerable.
As am I.
A year later and this story still feels delicate and tender. When I tell it out loud, will I fall apart? I’ll be honest…my heart hasn’t completely “set” yet. But the good news is, I’m getting there. The more I talk about it, the more it solidifies somewhere deep that this is my story. It’s our story. I’ve got to find the beauty in it wherever possible. So I’ll cherish it and carry it carefully and close always.